I woke up just in time to see the entirety of Mexico City from the plane. The mountains surrounded and pressed in on the city, and the city pushed back against them. It was my first time traveling alone and first time in Mexico.
My partner and I had broken up a few months before the trip. We couldn’t afford to break our lease, so we were still living together. I was broken and scared to leave Chicago, because that apartment and that relationship were all I knew. I didn’t know how to be okay on my own anymore. My emotions were all over the place. I loved and hated the afternoon rain, all at once.
But after one week in Mexico City, and without noticing it, I started to feel better – free, even. My temporary immersion in such a strong culture, amicable people, and new surroundings didn’t allow me to hide. There was no way I could stay in the hotel and pity myself; I had to get out, walk around, and experience it all. I no longer cared if I had to eat dinner alone, get myself a beer, or was lost in a crowd.
I’m not a fan of tourist-oriented activities, but I wanted to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan, so I booked a tour package. The first stop was the Plaza de Las Tres Culturas (Park of The Three Cultures), where three pyramids built by indigenous peoples stand along with the first church in Mexico City and a newer building representing modern Mexico. Naturally, the pyramids were impressive, but what struck me was seeing that the first church of a religion that came to dominate Mexican culture was built with stones taken from those very pyramids.
The next stop on the tour was also a spiritual encounter. La Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe). It was impossible to walk among believers and ignore the glowing authority of their faith. I questioned whether to take photographs, while some of the faithful ended their pilgrimage on their knees, praying and advancing towards the altar.
At the pyramids of Teotihuacan our tour guide, Raul, told us to choose a pyramid and climb it, recommending the Sun pyramid. I don’t know whether it was the tequila I’d stopped for earlier or the fact that I spent a lot of time at the gym that winter, but I decided to climb both the Sun and Moon pyramids. I climbed the Sun pyramid first, and at the top I sat down to observe. It was crowded with tourists, myself included, but I wanted to enjoy the moment and the view, so I listened to some music to block everything else out. It was beautiful. The landscape and energy of the pyramids were overwhelming. I still do not have suitable words to describe the experience. Back at the hotel that night I was exhausted, sunburned, and ready to sleep, but I also felt more alive than I had in months.